Thousand plus Reserves find full-time employment with Correctional Services

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The military skillset is in demand, by at least the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, which earlier this year welcomed over 1 200 Reserve Force staffers to its ranks.

The departure of part-time soldiers from the reserve component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) – mostly in search of full-time employment rather than the part-time call-up available in Defence Reserves – was mooted last November. That was when the Reserve Force indicated it was “assisting” the Correctional Services component of Minister Ronald Lamola’s portfolio to recruit for full-time careers.

According to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) 1 293 Reserves joined Correctional Services.

The move of part-time soldiers to, among others, become prison warders has again been raised, this time by UDM (United Democratic Movement) leader Bantu Holomisa.

In a letter to Justice and Correctional Services Minister Lamola and Arthur Fraser, Correctional Services National Commissioner, the former Transkei Defence Force (TDF) commander takes issue on “alleged reneging” as regards the employment of 2 064 “fully trained corrections graduates” from the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Correctional Services training programmes.

Holomisa notes government “touted the Correctional Services Leadership programme as ‘part of government’s National Skills Development Strategy to create skills and ease poverty and unemployment’. Yet these graduates find themselves without jobs and on the streets by the same, now seemingly uncaring, government”.

The graduates, according to Holomisa, were informed they will be “absorbed in the permanent workforce (of Correctional Services)” with a “30 day out” clause putting paid to the notion guaranteed full-time or even employment at any of the department’s 235 correctional centres or 46 management areas.

According to Correctional Services website South Africa’s prison population on 31 March 2019 (the latest statistic available) was 163 875.

“The testimony of graduates from both the 2018/19 and 2019/2020 training cycles is they have been unceremoniously ‘dumped’, plus they spent over a year to obtain a useless qualification as the monopoly employer of corrections officials does not want to employ them.

“Why did government invest in training these graduates for two cycles if it does not plan to utilise them? The next cycle of training for new entrants has started? What chance does the new crop of trainees stand?” he asks adding “it stands to reason newly appointed Reserve Force members will need specialised corrections training to work in the prison environment. This requires additional funding. It also seems a strange for Correctional Services to discard purposely trained personnel in favour of purposely trained military personnel”.

Holomisa awaits response to his questions which come at a time when the number of mandays logged by Reserve Force staffers stands at 3.3 million, well above the previous high of 2.6 million. A reliable source in the part-time component of the national defence force told defenceWeb, on condition of anonymity, the high utilisation of Reserves shows their value to the overall SANDF contribution to government’s COVID-19 damage limitation exercise Operation Notlela and the subsequent Operation Ligcolo.